An Azure update

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

December 9, 2011

Immediately after posting my Note on Azures, I had a bit of an epiphany. In researching Azures, I repeatedly came across the name David Wright. From time to time, I have enjoyed correspondence from a gentleman named Wright, who seemed particularly knowledgeable on the subject of butterflies. So, I went back and checked; yes, first name David.

David Wright is an expert on Celastrina, and I had not bothered to even offer him the courtesy of comment before I posted on his area of expertise.[1]

Well, that’s embarrassing.

So I sent Dr. Wright a brief note explaining what I had done and apologizing for not having made the connection sooner.[2]

Dr. Wright graciously and swiftly responded. The information he provided was so concise and valuable that I have asked his permission to reproduce it here. He agreed.

For those who still need a scorecard, C. lucia is the Lucia Azure, C. neglecta is the Summer Azure, C. ladon is the Spring Azure, C. neglectamajor is the Appalachian Azure, C. idella is the Holly Azure, C. nigra is the Dusky Azure, and C. serotina is the Cherry Gall Azure.

From Dr. Wright:

“There should be three azures in your area. Of your 11 pictures, the first six are the spring univoltine[3] C. lucia (except for possibly the one from Kansas Valley) and the last five are C. neglecta.

C. lucia lives on the ridgetop of Blue/Kittatiny Mtn. from the Delaware Water Gap to the Maryland border and in plateaus to the north. C. ladon is present in the lowlands, especially from the base of the southern skirt of the ridge and southward in mesic woodlands. C. neglecta flies in both habitats and virtually all habitats in the state from late May/early June to late September.

C. neglectamajor is an associate of C. ladon in mesic woodlands where black cohosh thrives. It flies in May as the C. ladon flight is waning. It may come up to the southern edge of the ridge, but it seems to be found in good numbers below the turnpike towards the Maryland border.

C. serotina is an associate of C. lucia and starts to fly as lucia wanes. It does not occur with lucia on the ridgetops, rather it is co-occurs with lucia in the northern plateaus, such as Pocono Plateau and Appalachian Plateau. [T]he flight date [is] from mid-May to mid-June. It does indeed like cherry galls as a host, and it also utilizes small shrubs in bud in this interval, such as nannyberry.

C. nigra appears to be extripated from the state. We (people at DNR) have been looking at the few remaining stands of goatsbeard for nearly 20 years, but have found no sign of the butterfly or immatures on the host. Still hold out hope there is a small isolated colony getting by somewhere.

C. idella most likely does not occur in the state. It likes the sandy pine barren habitats on the coastal plain. I once searched the great holly stands in Susquehannock State Park in April, but didn’t find the butterfly. (I thought it might come up from the coast in the southern Susquehanna valley. Apparently not, however, this is a good route for southern migrants like Phoebis sennae and others.)“[4]

So, from the comments above, the following are Lucia’s Azure: (insert photos here)

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia) nectaring on violet, 20 April, 2010, Dix Hill, Perry Co. PA.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia) nectaring on violet, 20 April, 2010, Dix Hill, Perry Co. PA.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 20 April, 2010, Dix Hill, Perry Co. PA.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 20 April, 2010, Dix Hill, Perry Co. PA.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 20 April, 2010. Dix Hill, Perry Co. PA.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 20 April, 2010. Same plant, same place, same time as photo above (different individual).

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 25 April, 2009. Bower Mtn Rd. Tuscarora State Forest, PA.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 25 April, 2009. Bower Mtn Rd. Tuscarora State Forest, PA.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 8 May, 2011, Pipeline right of way. Tuscarora State Forest, PA. Worn specimen.

Lucia's Azure (C. lucia), 8 May, 2011, Pipeline right of way. Tuscarora State Forest, PA. Worn specimen.

This is probably Lucia’s Azure, but may not be:

Azure (Celastrina spp.). 14 April, 2011. Kansas Valley, Tuscarora State Forest, PA.

Azure (Celastrina spp.). 14 April, 2011. Kansas Valley, Tuscarora State Forest, PA.

These are all Summer Azures:

Summer Azure

Summer Azure (C. neglecta). 29 May, 2011, Little Buffalo SP. Perry Co. PA. On Dogwood.

Summer Azure

Summer Azure (C. neglecta). 9 June, 2007. Near New Bloomfield, PA. on Dogwood

Summer Azure. 18 June, 2011, Little Buffalo SP.

Summer Azure (C. neglecta). 18 June, 2011, Little Buffalo SP, Perry Co. PA.

Summer Azure (C. neglecta). 30 June, 2011, Tuscarora Wild Area

Summer Azure (C. neglecta). 30 June, 2011, Tuscarora Wild Area. Tuscarora State Forest, PA

Summer Azure (C. neglecta). 22 August, 2011, Zooks Dam, Mifflin Co.

Summer Azure (C. neglecta). 22 August, 2011, Zooks Dam, Mifflin Co. PA

Anyone who remembers me saying “I suspect that many, if not all, of these photos are the Spring Azure (C. ladon)” in my Note will quickly discern that I was quite wrong.  None of them, with the possible exception of the Kansas Valley photo, are C. ladon!  I feel I should point that out, since Dr. Wright refrained—as I said, he responded graciously.

So now, at last, we know something, thanks to Dr. Wright.

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  1. Expert is a term that gets thrown around loosely, but in this case, it applies, c.f.: Wright and Pavulaan, Celastrina Idella (Lycaenidae: Polyommatinae): A New Butterfly Species from the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The Taxonomic Report of the International Lepidoptera Survey, 1 (9), (15 Aug, 99). (Available online at http://www.tils-ttr.org/ttr/ttr-1-9.pdf).  Or, Pavulaan and Wright, Celastrina Serotina (Lycaenidae: Polyommatinae): A New Butterfly Species from the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. The Taxonomic Report of the International Lepidoptera Survey, 1 (9), (1 Dec, 05). (Available online at http://www.tils-ttr.org/ttr/ttr-6-6.pdf ). []
  2. Besides his entomological accomplishments, Dr. Wright is a Medical Doctor, board certified in Pathology and Medical Microbiology. []
  3. (ed.) Univoltine is generally an entomologist’s term for a species that has only one brood per year (JBW). []
  4. (ed.) Phoebis sennae is the Cloudless Sulphur. []

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